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Tracking environmentally sustainable agriculture in Alberta

Producers are encouraged to participate in the farm-level Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Tracking Survey.

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See event listings and more articles in this edition of Agri-News: February 13, 2023 issue

“The Alberta government sponsors a farm-level survey to track the rate of environmentally beneficial management practices (BMPs) adoption in Alberta,” says Laura Ung, provincial evaluation specialist with the Alberta government. “The results from this survey also help government improve policy, programs and services to encourage and support producers adopting environmentally sustainable agriculture practices on their farms. This year the Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Tracking Survey (ESATS) will be completed, starting in February.”

The ESATS was initiated in the mid 1990s and has since been conducted every 2 to 3 years. This survey and its longevity are distinctly unique to Alberta and provide Alberta’s agriculture sector a valuable recorded 30-year history of the adoption of BMPs.

“Alberta’s track record in adoption of BMPs demonstrates that Alberta’s producers have been thoughtful stewards of the land. They continue to adopt new practices, technology and innovations, which enables them to provide a sustainable source of food, fiber and fuel.”

In 1997, the key themes in the ESATS were soil conservation, water quality, water quantity, wildlife habitat and management of agricultural waste. The survey has evolved over time but these themes remain relevant today and continue to be part of the ESATS. The current ESATS focuses on key environmental risk areas: soil health, water quality, air quality (including greenhouse gases) and biodiversity.

Chart 1. Change in adoption of BMPs between 1997 and current*

Bar graph with blue and green bars showing change in adaptation of BMPs between 1197 and current (current includes results from 2018 or 2021 ESATS)

“More recently the ESATS added asking producers about the use of government supported on-farm decision making support tools and resources,” explains Ung. “Understanding producers’ awareness and use of these tools provides valuable feedback to ensure ongoing usability and effectiveness in supporting producers making decisions on their farms. The ESATS also provides an opportunity to understand awareness and interest of emerging trends. For example, in 2021 ESATS explored producers’ perspectives on the Environmental Farm Plan and sustainability assurance systems.”

The survey is set up in such a way that it will only ask about practices that would make sense for each farming type, meaning, if a producer does not have livestock, they will not be asked the livestock questions. This improves the relevance of the results. The survey collects feedback from a representative sample of Alberta’s farming and ranching community.

Using a sample population of 500 producers provides results accurate to within plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what the results would have been had the entire population of Alberta farms been surveyed.

“If you are an Alberta producer and are contacted, please consider participating in the survey. This survey provides important information into the Government of Alberta’s policies, programs and services. The survey captures and demonstrates how Alberta’s producers are using environmentally beneficial management practices to produce feed, food and fuel with responsibly managing Alberta’s soil, air, water and biodiversity resources,” says Ung.

For more information, see:

Environmentally Sustainable Agriculture Tracking Survey

Contact

Connect with Laura Ung for more information:
Phone: 780-980-4200

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